Flyers Fan Reaction (FFR1) Gm 74: PHI 3, CHI 1 - Carter Dagger
If there's anyone that came make up for those awful Chicago Knights back in 2010, it's Starter Hart.
The Philadelphia Flyers WIN 3-1 in the Windy City over the upstart Chicago Blackhawks. Outplayed throughout, Carter Hart carried the Flyers to yet another improbable victory. Their playoff odds are still incredibly slim. But the Flyers are not dead yet.
Chicago entered Thursday night's contest in a similar position as the Flyers. The Hawks had gotten off to a rough start, firing Joel Quenneville early in the season. However, a couple recent hot streaks have brought the Blackhawks within 5 points of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference (held by Colorado, who the Hawks have a game in hand on). But the playoffs are still a miracle away for both teams, making Thursday's game of the utmost importance if either wants to play past early April.
The Flyers responded to this by playing like they usually do - starting the game looking like a pee-wee team. Philadelphia surrendered 3 high-danger scoring chances, including a breakaway and a one-timer from the slot, while on a power play, but escaped thanks to the wizardry of Starter Hart. Unfortunately, a wide-open Erik Gustafsson beat Hart with a glove side wrister, giving the Hawks an early lead.
However, the Flyers started to iron their game out from that point, and started to get some chances of their own. Seconds after Crawford stopped a Justin Bailey breakaway bid, Bailey got the puck into the slot to Travis K-oh never mind, that's (adjusts glasses) Corban Knight? You'd think it was TK by looking at the shot, perfectly placed high to the blocker side of Crawford. Corban Knight gets his first goal as a Flyer, and Philly ties the game up at 1 before first intermission.
Unfortunately, the bad first 10 minutes of the first period spilled into the entire 2nd period. Even though some of their once vaunted depth has dropped off, the Blackhawks remain a team with plenty of star power that can score goals at will. Well, when they're not trying to score them on Carter Hart, that is. Chicago dominated the 2nd period, outshooting the Flyers 16-7 and drawing the only penalty of the frame. What started as a fast-paced back-and-forth contest became one-sided quicker than you can say "father time," only to have Stan Bowman ignore you. None the less, Carter Hart was phenomenal, keeping the game tied after 40 minutes.
Dylan Strome beat Hart just a couple minutes into the 3rd with another wrist shot from the slot, but thankfully the puck hit the left post. Chicago kept the pressure on, but the Flyers weren't being as dominated nearly as much as they were in the 2nd. Near the halfway mark of the frame, the Flyers were able to break into the offensive zone. JVR curled back at the top of the left face-off circle and threw a weak backhander that... squeaked through Corey Crawford? Man, Crawford was having such a great game, it seemed like it was going to take a miracle to beat him. But James van Backhandsdyk beats him for his 26th goal of the season, giving the Flyers their first lead.
To their credit, the Blackhawks didn't give up, and certainly had the Flyers on their heels as the clock wound down. But Philadelphia stayed calm, killed off a Ryan Hartman penalty, and kept the Blackhawks at bay. Sean Couturier, who set up the screen on van Riemsdyk's goal, dragged home the empty-netter with just 1:14 left. Against the odds, the Flyers came into the United Center and conquered the Blackhawks, escaping with a necessary 2 points. The future is still the focus, but the present just refuses to let the door be slammed shut.
Some exciting news about the future. The next matchup between the Blackhawks and the Flyers will be on October 4th, 2019, in Prague, Czech Republic, as part of the NHL's Global Series. Buffalo and Tampa Bay will also play two games in Sweden from November 8-9. Obviously, it's exciting to see the game of hockey grow, and it will also be a return home for Jake Voracek and Radko Gudas. Personally, I'm all for anything that avoids an opening day 10:30 start on a school night.
Thursday's win is even more impressive considering the pesky flu that's been making its away around the Flyers dressing room. Phil Myers, Sam Morin, and Ryan Hartman had already been sidelined because of it (Claude Giroux nearly missed a game, too). Last night, it was Michael Raffl under the weather, with Justin Bailey coming back in.
Speaking of, Bailey has been recalled about eight times over the last week. Here's the reason behind that. Each NHL team is only allowed 4 callups after the trade deadline, but if a player is called up on an emergency basis, it doesn't count towards the limit. However, once the emergency has been dealt with, the player called up must be sent down (or can stay in the NHL, but now counts towards that limit). So since the Flyers only have 12 forwards on their active roster, whenever a forward gets sick, Bailey can be called up without counting to the limit if he is sent down once they get healthy.
Corban Knight's goal was his first in the NHL since January 5th, 2016, when he was a member of the Florida Panthers. Always nice to see a good guy like that light the lamp (not as nice - the cut of his nose, courtesy of his visor).
With his 4th 40+ save performance of the season, Carter Hart ties Dan Blackburn for the most of those for a goalie under 20 (former Flyer Steve Mason had 3, all with Columbus) per Hockey Reference.
The Flyers 2-2 performance on the PK Thursday extended Chicago's power play funk. The Hawks are now just 1 for their last 21 on the man advantage, spanning 8 games.
Philadelphia also snapped Chicago's 52-game streak of scoring at least 2 goals in a game. The streak dates all the way back to November 18th, eight days after the Flyers shut out the Blackhawks 4-0 at the Wells Fargo Center.
It's a miracle James van Riemsdyk is even close to hitting the 30-goal mark, considering he missed 16 games due to injury. But a goal-a-game rate over the last 7 contests have pushed his tally up to 26. After a slow start, he's proven worth every penny of his big 5-year deal.
Despite taking a bad penalty and wiffing on an empty net, Ryan Hartman earns the POG helmet against his old team (in fairness, he did have a heck of a shot block on a Seabrook bomb in the 3rd).
1st - C. Hart (PHI) - .976 SV% (40 Saves/41 Shots)
2nd - J. van Riemsdyk (PHI) - 1 G
3rd - C. Crawford (CHI) - .926 SV% (25 Saves/27 Shots)
PHI - 3/23 vs. NYI (42-25-7)
CHI - 3/23 @ COL (33-29-12)